Ready to Wear: The middle class now know the ethical cost of budget fashion

Isn't it funny – and at least occasionally quite gratifying – how times change. And so I find myself on a balmy Bank Holiday Monday afternoon discussing with my good friend Ben just how great it is that, perhaps for the first time in our lives, we find our unswerving and loyal devotion to spending exorbitant amounts of money on our wardrobes finally earning us the moral high ground.

For years, you see, the British in particular have taken at least some pride in the fact that they might look half decent for not much more than the price of a Double Whopper with cheese at Burger King. Those who choose to spend a significant percentage of their income on designer clothes, on the other hand, have been viewed not only as profligate and vain but also, in Ben's case at least, most probably gay. He's straight, for the record, to explode just another Great British prejudice/myth.

That is the case no longer, however. The middle class in this country – for it is they, not the less fortunate, who must stand up and be counted – now know the ethical cost of budget fashion while Ben and I rest safe in the knowledge that, with our quality not quantity mindset, we are not only sparing the nation's landfills but also supporting a highly-creative, skilled, and at best unionised industry which is, in fact, comparatively clean and serene.

Credit crunch/recession or no, the solution to dress is not to buy 10 or even 20 items of clothing at Primark, say, when, for the same price, the consumer could afford a single garment made in either France or Italy to far more elevated technical and indeed moral standards. And while we all know that the big brands are far from immune to the considerable lure of cheap labour, it is also true that they tend to pay higher rates and have longer deadlines when they do outsource their work, meaning that the likelihood of foul practice on the part of any sub-contractors is less likely.

Buy little and buy well. That surely should be our mantra, then. In the best of all possible worlds, the fashion follower would invest in pieces she or he loves, wear them for years and until they are falling off their backs and then have no qualms about replacing them. Why would you when they have served so well?

Of course, this viewpoint is not necessarily grasped by all lovers of the finer things in sartorial life. According to the 'Daily Mirror', Victoria Beckham owns no less than 100 Hermès Birkin bags, presumably in every colour and skin under the sun. Given that even the simplest version costs upwards of £2,000 this gives new meaning to the words buying in bulk.

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